BY SANDRA GUY
As scientific studies show that schoolchildren, even younger ones, can play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 infections, the concept of wellness checkups has radically changed.
“In the second (pandemic) wave, we acquired much more evidence that schoolchildren are almost equally, if not more infected by SARS-CoV-2 than others,” Antoine Flahault, director of the University of Geneva’s Institute of Global Health, told The Wall Street Journal.
And since at least one lab study suggests that as many as half of the people who have the coronavirus disease show no symptoms and are still able to spread the disease, the issue is more concerning than ever.
So wellness checkups look closely at potential symptoms — previously seen as mere irritants — such as a runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat and shortness of breath. The most common coronavirus symptoms range from fever to tiredness to dry cough, but can also include chills, sore throat, headache or chest pain and muscle aches.
Parents need to be aware that wellness checkups now include questions about these symptoms, as well as the potential need for COVID-19 testing.
Students going to college must go through wellness check-ins or they may be asked to return home because of the concern about spreading the coronavirus.
Here are other aspects of wellness that you may expect:
• The doctor will measure your child’s vision, hearing, height and weight, and essentially do a whole-body assessment. It’s also important to ensure that all vaccinations are up-to-date.
• Another form of checkup is the child’s ability to perform physical activities, especially since so many children — and parents — have started rolling out of bed and sitting in front of a computer, laptop or phone screen all day and night throughout the pandemic lockdown. Expect questions about walking, hiking, biking and other exercise that should be part of daily activities.
• Hygiene and nutrition. Can your child demonstrate proper handwashing, and does he or she do it several times a day? How would your child describe the day’s meals? Do you let your children help choose fruits and vegetables, as difficult as it is to cave in to their begging for daily servings of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and ice cream? If necessary, create your own home version of “Iron Chef Kids’ Challenge,” and see who can win “most creative” in coming up with nutritious recipes. Or design funny faces and characters with slices of apples, pears, bananas and watermelon, or use cookie cutters to have fun making snacks.
• Stress and psychological health. No one can discount the serious strain that children and young people have endured during the pandemic. Warnings signs include stomach aches, headaches, trouble sleeping, nightmares, changes in eating habits and hysterical behavior. Talk to your child or teen about these issues, and be open to ask for professional help.
Some school systems contract with licensed family therapists and social workers to run wellness centers so that in-school professionals aren’t overwhelmed. Check with the child’s doctor to see if he or she can make a referral. Stay calm and refrain from reaching for a worst-case scenario.
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